"I am convinced that the therapy of the future will employ heat, light, electricity and agents yet unknown. Toxic drugs shall cede their place to physical agents, the employment of which, at least, has the advantage of not introducing any foreign body into the organism"
Arsene D'Arsonval, 1896
Stone carvings depict Roman physicians using electric fish to treat conditions.
Ancient Greeks use electric eels and rays to treat headache and migraine. The Greek word for electric eel is “narka,” meaning relief from pain - the root of the term “narcotics”.
Ancient Romans devise an ingenious way to treat migraines and epilepsy. Scribonius Largus, the court physician to Emperor Claudius, is an early proponent of the treatment. For a headache, he recommends placing an electric ray on the patient’s head until the pain ceases and the part grows numb.
Rays are also used for the treatment for gout. This is done by placing rays beneath a man’s feet and allowing repeated shocks to take place to numb away the pain.
Ancient Egyptians use the torpedo, an electric marine ray, in an early form of electrotherapy to treat epilepsy.
The Leyden jar is invented. This is the first device able to store static electricity and is used, among other things, to treat pain.
German physicist, Christian Kratzenstein is probably the first modern scientist to report therapy with electricity. His electrical treatments are known throughout Europe and subsequently replicated by others.
Kratzenstein’s fame rests primarily on his work in electrotherapy where he gives accounts of curing or ameliorating paralysis by passing electric currents (administered via electrostatic generators) through the diseased part.
Famed inventor, Benjamin Franklin is using electrical stimulation for pain relief, and to treat a person with convulsions, and various palsies. He begins to experiment with the earliest creations of batteries. The batteries sent electrical stimulation through the skin to the painful area.
Richard Lovett in The Subtil Medium Prov’d, the first English textbook on medical electricity, proves dozens of cures for many diseases using electrotherapy.
John Birch, an English surgeon, uses electrical current to control pain. He later founded the Electrical Department at St Thomas’ hospital London.
During an electrical experiment, Italian physician and anatomist Luigi Galvani watches as a scalpel touches a dissected frog on a metal mount — and the frog’s leg kicks. Further experiments lead him to theorize that living bodies contain an innate vital force that he calls “animal electricity. The phenomenon was dubbed galvanism.
Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist and chemist, starts to raise doubts about Galvanism. He supposes that the electricity is created from only the two metals used in the experiments, not the frog itself. Galvani replies with a series of experiments demonstrating that muscle contractions are produced even in the absence of any metal. However, Volta does demonstrate that the contact of two different metals could produce an electric effect, thus arriving to the invention of the electric battery.
The body of the murderer George Forster is pulled from the gallows of Newgate Prison in London and taken to The Royal College of Surgeons. There, before an audience of doctors and curiosity-seekers, Giovanni Aldini, nephew of the late Luigi Galvani, prepares the audience to experience Galvanism. The crowd watches in terror as Foster’s jaw quivers, his facial muscles contort, and his left eye opens. This experiment served to inspire one of the most famous examples of science fiction: Frankenstein.
In the 1830’s
Carlo Matteucci proves that an electrical current is generated by injured tissues.
British scientist Michael Faraday discovers that an electric current can produce a magnetic field and that the reverse was also true. This observation serves as the basis for neurostimulation.
Many large hospitals have electrical departments with Leyden jars, batteries (developed by Galvani and Volta between 1791 and 1800), and after Faraday’s discovery in 1831, electromagnetic induction machines.
Hand-held generated electricity grow popular in the 19th century; Queen Victoria and "normal folks" use it to relieve pain and other chronic pain disorders.
When Queen Victoria becomes pregnant with her first child, she declares she does not want to feel any pain during childbirth. She is applies it during labor and becomes a trendsetter for the idea of anesthesia
During the Civil War, morphine is often utilized as a battlefield anesthetic. Many soldiers develop morphine dependency as a result.
Heroin, the newest opium derivative, is first produced commercially by Germany's Bayer Company (the same company that produces Aspirin). It is widely advertised as being at least 10 times as potent a painkiller as morphine with “none” of the addicting properties.
Congress passes the Harrison Narcotics Act, which requires a written prescription for any narcotic.
The Anti-Heroin Act bans the production and sale of heroin in the United States.
The Flexner report from the Carnegie Foundation, prepared to support Rockefeller's quest to control the growing pharmaceutical industry, was used to close half the medical schools in the country (virtually all the closed schools were conducting research on alternatives to pharmacology).
The clinical application of electrical stimulation therapy becomes all but forgotten because of remarkable progress (revenue growth) in pharmaceutical drugs.
Leading British neuroscientistsRonald Melzack and Patrick D Wall's research leads to the “Gate Control Theory." The Theory assets that non-painful input closes the "gates" to painful input, which prevents pain sensation from traveling to the central nervous system. It was then recognized that electricity can play an important part in reducing pain for those with chronic pain conditions.
Neurosurgeon C. Norman Shealy begins implanting neurostimulators in humans for pain relief. By 1970, six patients had undergone this treatment.
OxyContin, a longer acting iteration of oxycodone, is introduced and is aggressively marketed as a safe pain pill by Purdue Pharma.
The federal government files criminal charges against Purdue Pharam for advertising OcyContin as a safer and less addictive alternative than other opioids. Purdue Pharam and a handful of executives plead guilty, and agree to pay 634.5 million in criminal and civil fines
The CDC publishes specific guidelines for prescribing opioids for patients with chronic pain. Recommendations include prescribing over the counter pain relievers like acetaminophen. Individuals who had previously managed their pain through an opioid prescription were now forced to find alternative methods of treatment.
Looking for other solutions, The University of Texas at Arlington is researching and developing an implantable device. It will serve as an alternative to reducing pain through electrical stimulation that acts as a spinal block, preventing pain signals from reaching the brain.
70,237 people die from drug overdoses in the United States, which averages to 192 a day.
President Trump declares a national public health emergency to combat the opioid crisis.
Current day and future
Large players in the medical device arena and pharmaceutical giants and investing billions in bioelectronic medical research. A large majority of this research centering around implantable devices.On the consumer side, challenger Biomedicals, like NuroKor, are quick to market with nimble solutions for current uses for improving health now and building on pre-existing knowledge and studies. We are working on future use and application technology to put the power of bioelectrical medicine in your hands!